You can take the boy out of San Francisco, but you can't take San Francisco out of the boy. Nicolaas Zwart, born and raised in the city by the bay, moved away from his native land for a brief spell to attend Evergreen in Olympia, WA, where he founded a chill wave band called Desolation Wilderness. But it wasn't too long before he boomeranged back to his hometown, where he got a job making pizzas to fund his new habit, a solo project called Electric Sunset.
His first release under the moniker is self-titled and lives up to its name; the music thrives on synth and other "electric" sounds, and there is a certain brilliant calm to the songs that resembles the brief color-blasted moments right before the sun slips past the horizon. Wrapped in bright atmospherics, the nine songs on the album sound like a getaway to a desert island or a retreat from waking life in the form of a careless dream. Too pretty and fleeting to be real.
Shimmery synths are the backbone of this record, kicking off each song with a bit of razzle dazzle, followed closely by a variety of instrumental elements (a tropical beat or a gleaming computer concoction) that introduce themselves one at a time. The last piece of the puzzle is Nicolaas' reverb-y vocals that bounce through the ears like sound waves ricocheting off the walls of a narrow cave, a blitz of reoccurring syllables. Once all the elements are put into place, each song gains its full-bodied balance and throws its weight around, making noise in all the right places.
First single "Soda" is as bubbly as you'd expect and goes down smooth. And songs like "Palace" and "Here Comes Midnight" capture a breezy surf-pop aesthetic that is purely Californian. Many of the other songs on the album are equally as good, but fail to differentiate themselves from their relatives enough to make a distinct impression. Nevertheless, Electric Sunset accomplishes what it intends to do: the album provides the directions to a glittering dreamscape, a ready escape from the quotidian hassles and routines, a ticket out of the present moment and into that ever elusive sphere of possibility just beyond the horizon.
Electric Sunset is out on September 7, 2010. Buy it in preparation for his performance at Milk Bar on September 29, 2010 in San Francisco.